WAYNE, Pa. – As the Union look to replace the production of their all-time leading scorer, Sebastien Le Toux, one player expected to shoulder a portion of the load is striker Josué Martínez.
Signed by the Union on December 7, the 21-year-old is considered one of Costa Rica's rising young talents – and now one of Philadelphia’s as well.
While Martínez often showed his class in Costa Rica’s top flight, he has yet to approach his full potential. Union manager Peter Nowak recently said that Martínez “has a lot to prove,” adding “we think we can help him with this.”
Still, Martínez has an impressive body of work considering his age and limited experience. With Costa Rican power Deportivo Saprissa – now strategic partners of the Union – Martínez scored 18 goals in 43 appearances.
Capable of playing as a central striker or out wide, Martínez is known for having elite speed. Nowak also praised his ability in the air, an attacking component the Union largely lacked in 2011.
After Philadelphia’s first full week of preseason training, Martínez is pleased with the way he’s settling into his new surroundings.
“I’m very happy; it’s a great group of teammates,” he told philadelphiaunion.com through a translator last week. “I live day-by-day trying to adapt to the [team’s] game system.”
Martínez’s decision to depart his native Costa Rica for America and Major League Soccer wasn’t easy on a personal level. Professionally, however, Martínez isn’t second-guessing his decision.
“I believe it‘s a better place than Costa Rica for me to grow and develop and learn many new things,” he said. “It’s not about having a home, it’s about moving forward.”
Several years ago, MLS was not a desired destination for promising young international players, but the perception of the league is rapidly changing. Count Martínez among those who have recognized the league’s increasing quality.
“It’s a league that is growing,” Martínez said. “Players come from everywhere to grow here and to make good performances. I believe there’s a lot to learn. There are great players and great stars in this league that have been in Europe and they are all part of the learning experience. I also want to make the most out of every game and try to get the most benefit out of them.”
One of the top players in the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup – in which Costa Rica improbably finished fourth – Martínez knows he will be relied upon to finish for the Union. But he’s also aware that his responsibilities extend beyond individual accomplishments. When asked what qualities he expects to bring to his new team, Martínez made a point to stress that he must be accountable to his teammates.
“I’m fast, I’m always trying to get inside the box, I can move with the ball really well, and I’m trying to support the team constantly,” he said. "Mainly, [my goal during preseason is] to adapt to the team and get along with my teammates.”
When Philadelphia's third season kicks off on March 12 in Portland, new goals come into play.
“I want to make it to the playoffs, which is important for everyone – it’s no secret,” Martínez said. “And obviously, one of the main goals is to lead the team to the championship.”